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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New Yorker Tareq Mousa al-Ghazi Convicted of Arms Trafficking

By BENJAMIN WEISER

Published: March 17, 2009

A Palestinian-born businessman was convicted in New York Tuesday on charges that he conspired with the Syrian arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar in a plot to sell weapons, including 15 surface-to-air missiles, to a Columbian terrorist organization.

The businessman, Tareq Mousa al-Ghazi, was told that the arms would be used to kill American military officers, the evidence showed.

Mr. Ghazi, 62, is the third man found guilty in the plot, which involved an elaborate sting operation run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which used informants who posed as middlemen and said they were seeking the weapons for a Columbian rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Prosecutors said the men also agreed to sell 4,000 grenades, nearly 9,000 assault rifles and thousands of pounds of explosives to the FARC for a profit of more than $1 million.

Mr. Ghazi was acquitted of a broader charge, conspiring to kill Americans generally. But he was convicted of three conspiracy counts, including the plot to kill American military officers and providing material assistance to a terrorist group.

Mr. Kassar, who the authorities say had been involved in arms trafficking since the 1970s, was convicted along with an associate in November and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The associate, Luis Felipe Moreno Godoy, received 25 years in prison.

Mr. Ghazi faces a minimum of 25 years in prison and could receive a life term when he is sentenced by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan.

Mr. Ghazi’s lawyer, Marc A. Agnifilo, said he would appeal. At trial, he argued that his client had been entrapped by the government, lured into the plot as a way for the government to apprehend Mr. Kassar.

But prosecutors denied that, saying Mr. Ghazi had been a willing and ready participant. “He did everything he could to get the deal done and get paid,” a prosecutor, Boyd M. Johnson III, told the jury.

Jurors interviewed after the verdict said they spent more than a day discussing the question of entrapment, but ultimately rejected it after receiving clarification on the law from the judge.

The Rest @ The New York Times

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